Six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen has worked successfully against a multitude of challenges in her personal and professional career.
The Olympian still pleases crowds across the nation, and maybe the globe, but with words of inspiration, which were welcomed widely by hundreds of Pahrump residents earlier this year. Van Dyken-Rouen was paralyzed in 2014 from the waist down in an ATV accident, and she now travels the country to present her message.
“My message is kind of my motto, which is don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do,” she said before going onstage at Valley Electric Association’s annual meeting at the end of April at Pahrump Valley High School.
Van Dyken-Rouen explored this deeply while onstage, talking about her challenges with asthma that struck her early in life. In her later years, she was told by coaches that she wasn’t ready for the Olympics.
Because of her refusal to give up, she went to the 1996 games in Atlanta, winning four gold medals.
Van Dyken-Rouen went on to win two more gold medals in Sydney in 2000, though she was told at that time she would not qualify, following a surgery before the event.
She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2007. The following year, Van Dyken-Rouen was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
The Colorado resident is still living by her motto today.
Van Dyken-Rouen travels at least once a week to places across the nation to give speeches, she said during her inaugural stop in Pahrump.
She has also taken up many new sports since her accident four years ago. Water skiing and snow skiing is her jam now, she said.
“I love that I can feel the wind going by me again. It’s being active,” she said.
Van Dyken-Rouen said that it has been noted by people that it is beneficial to get in the water after being paralyzed.
“It makes you feel light, lifting our legs up, which are pretty heavy, all day long, all the time,” she said.
But Van Dyken-Rouen felt that’s where she was most paralyzed because she could do anything before her accident.
Van Dyken-Rouen is also giving back to the community through her Amy Van Dyken Foundation, which gives wheelchairs to paralyzed children under 18.
The reason she focuses on children is because health insurance plans only cover one wheelchair every five years, she said.
Van Dyken-Rouen said she enjoyed her stop in Pahrump.
“I love it,” she said after her arrival. “I’m enjoying it so far.”
Challenges may still abound for the Olympian. When asked what her next challenge was going to be, she responded that it could be skydiving.
“I’m definitely afraid of falling from heights, so that might be a good thing to do to get over it,” she said.
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes